COMMENT: Article courtesy of the author. This is to me a continuing trend of “gaijinizing” the general population, first seen in my experience with the “Sentaku Ninkisei” issue (perpetual contract employment in academia for foreigners expanded to Japanese from 1997: http://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#ninkisei). According to this article, police random street-stops-and-searches of citizens (which are illegal as such, according to the article below) are now being enforced. This has been up to now generally the domain of the “gaijin” targeting of “anti-terrorism and disease control” racial profiling running rampant around Japan these past years.
I have given advice on what to do about this similar to Weekly Playboy’s (below) in the past (http://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#checkpoint). Carry the law with you. Japan (always in my view a dormant benign police state, given the police’s far-reaching powers of search, detention, interrogation, and prosecution enabled by the law), is once again stretching their police’s powers, which we ignore at our peril. –Arudou Debito, Vancouver, Canada
The Japan Times: Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006
Police shakedowns on the rise
By MARK SCHREIBER
Weekly Playboy (Oct. 16)
Last January, I was rushing past the koban [police box] at the west exit of
Shinjuku Station en route to a meeting and suddenly this cop halts me,
saying, ‘Will you please submit to an inspection of what you’re carrying on
your person?’ ” relates editor Toshikazu Shibuya (a pseudonym), age 38. “I
happened to be carrying this Leatherman tool, a pair of scissors with a
3-cm-long folding knife attachment in the handle. The next thing I knew, he
escorted me into the koban.”
Shibuya vociferously argued that he used the tool for trimming films and
other work-related tasks. “There’s no need for that gadget, you can find
something else,” the cop growled, confiscating it.
Several weeks later Shibuya was summoned to Shinjuku Police Station to
undergo another round of interrogation. After an hour, he was let off with a
stern warning that possession of such scissors was illegal, and made him
liable to misdemeanor charges.
Weekly Playboy reports that police have been conducting these shakedowns of
the citizenry as part of an “Emergency Public Safety Program” launched in
August 2003. In 2004, the number of people actually prosecuted for weapons
possession misdemeanors uncovered during these ad hoc inspections, referred
to as shokumu shitsumon (ex-officio questioning), reached 5,648 cases,
double the previous year, and up sixfold from 10 years ago.
“I think you can interpret it as an expansion of police powers,” says a
source within the police. “They are taking advantage of citizens’
unfamiliarity with the law to conduct compulsory questioning.”
In principle, police are not empowered to halt citizens on the street
arbitrarily. The Police Execution of Duties Law, Section 2, states that an
officer may only request that a citizen submit to questioning based on
reasonable judgment of probable cause, such as suspicious appearance or
Moreover, Weekly Playboy points out, compliance to such a request is
voluntary, i.e., you have the right to refuse.
Hiromasa Saikawa, an authority on the police, states that officers are being
browbeaten to come up with results, or else.
“Officers are under pressure to meet quotas for nabbing suspects who can be
prosecuted,” he says. “Low achievers might be passed over for promotion or
denied leave time.”
What should you do if you’re stopped? Weekly Playboy offers several
suggestions, including recording the conversation and carrying a copy of the
relevant passage of the law to show you know your rights. Since cooperation
is voluntary, you can refuse; but an uncooperative attitude might be
regarded with suspicion. Raising a ruckus in a loud voice might cause a
crowd to gather and convince the cop you’re more trouble than it’s worth.
But on the other hand, a show of good manners is probably a wiser strategy.
Keep smiling, but be resolute. Policemen are human too, and a disrespectful
attitude will probably just aggravate matters.
“A cop already knows that almost everyone he stops for questioning will be a
law-abiding citizen,” a retired policeman tells Weekly Playboy. “If you
refuse, they’ll suspect there’s a reason. They can summon assistance and
gang up on you, or in a worst case even make a false charge that you
interfered with official duties.”
For the time being, the magazine concludes, it’s probably a good idea to
eschew carrying knives and other potential weapons on one’s person.
The Japan Times: Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006
More on this issue at